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August 23, 2019

Universal Book Solutions: Anatomy of a Book-to-Screen Scam


Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware®

Selling film rights to Hollywood is among writers' most fevered dreams. And where there is something that writers want or need, there are always sharks waiting to take advantage.

The Hollywood book-to-screen "marketing" package was pioneered by Author Solutions, way back in the early 2000s. All the Author Solutions imprints offer it, including the imprints AS runs for publishers. Here's what the package looks like, from AS imprint Xlibris:
  • Hollywood Ticket: coverage by a "professional reader." Cost: $999.00.
  • Hollywood First Act: a synopsis, "critical analysis", and "45- 60-second teaser Book Video" for "catching film executives' attention". Cost: $2,999.00.
  • Hollywood Director's Cut: an 8-10 page treatment by a "professional screenwriter", plus "consideration" by Author Solutions' "first-look Hollywood partner". Cost: $3,899.00
  • Hollywood Producer's Pick: this is the big kahuna, a full screenplay written by a screenwriter, plus consideration by AS's first-look partner. Cost: $16,299.00. Note that the screenplay is based on "your approved Hollywood Treatment", which you must previously have purchased--so the real cost of this option is $20,198.00.
Although a handful of other assisted self-publishing companies have offered similar packages over the years (here's the one from Bookstand Publishing, for instance; Outskirts Press also had one for a time, though it seems to have been discontinued), Author Solutions hasn't faced a lot of competition in the high-priced Hollywood dream exploitation business--primarily, I'm guessing, because of the cost and coordination involved in providing the coverage, critiques, treatments, and screenplays to the authors who buy them.

That's changed recently, though.

An explosion of book-to-screen "services" has hit the internet, courtesy of the Author Solutions copycat scams that I've been writing about so much lately (there's a complete list in the sidebar). Author Reputation Press, Coffee Press, Dream Books Distribution, Media City Publishers, Paramount Books Media, Book Art Press, New Reader Media, BookVenture, MatchStick Literary, and more all offer some version of the Author Solutions book-to-screen package, either on their websites or in their (extremely aggressive) phone and email solicitations.

The value of any book-to-screen package is highly debatable, regardless of who provides it. Vendors of such "services" play on authors' dreams of making it big, while failing to provide any kind of realistic information about the extreme unlikelihood of success. Most books never sell or option film rights (they're among the subsidiary rights least likely to be exploited, even for successful authors with top-flight agents), and it's far harder to sell a screenplay than it is a book manuscript. For most authors, the most probable result of buying a book-to-screen package is a smaller bank account.

And that's assuming that the vendor actually provides the advertised services, and doesn't just take the money and run. Author Solutions, at least, does seem to produce the coverage, etc., it sells, in a reasonably literate manner (you'll see some examples if you read on)--though of course, like paid reviews, the critiques and coverage are likely to be customer-friendly--that is, unrealistically positive.

The copycats, on the other hand...they don't exactly have the greatest track records for quality, reliability, or service. Or honesty.

An example: Universal Book Solutions, which styles itself "a Book-to-Screen Marketing Professional, with years of experience in working for motion picture projects for producers, agents, directors, and major studios in Hollywood." As usual with the Author Solutions copycat scams, there's no information that would allow you to verify any of these claims--no list of owners or staff, no company history, no examples of successful projects. That's no accident, of course.

A sensible person might also wonder about the quality of written materials produced by a "Book-to-Screen Marketing Professional" that puts out website text like this (English-language lapses are one of the markers for the copycat scams):


Here's how UBS's slightly more literate email pitch begins (I've seen two of these now, and they're identical):

The email goes on to detail the services on offer--news release, coverage, treatment, and screenplay--in language that has been lifted directly from the Xlibris (and other Author Solutions imprints) book-to-screen package. As further inducement, a bunch of glowing--and conveniently unverifiable--quotes are appended at the end. Turns out that these too have been lifted, though from a different (and, in its way, equally questionable) source.


Anonymous testimonials are the best kind, right?

Last but not least, UBS includes several attachments--supposedly, examples of its work:


"Sample coverage" is this. Looks surprisingly literate and detailed, doesn't it? But wait. Here it is again...on the iUniverse website (the book was published by another Author Solutions imprint). Ditto for UBS's "sample treatment:" here's what UBS sent. Here it is at iUniverse (which also published the book in question).

(As for The Little Prince screenplay, I can't find any evidence of it online, but given all the other borrowing, it's sure to have been snitched from somewhere.)

So...a plagiarized book-to-screen package, promoted with plagiarized text, further promoted with plagiarized testimonials, and finished with sample documents produced by others and falsely presented as UBS's work. If you hand over your money to these folks (neither of the authors I heard from went far enough into the process to get a price), what do you think the odds are of getting any of the promised products?

Universal Book Solutions claims a Florida address (per a Google search, it's a private residence in what looks like a condo community), but has no business registration in that state. Its web domain was registered just last February. As for Allen Gardner, Project Manager, guess where he's located.
UBS is an especially egregious example of this increasingly common scam. But as noted above, there are many others, and they are aggressively soliciting authors, especially those who have published with Author Solutions imprints, small presses, and pay-to-play companies like Christian Faith Publishing and Page Publishing. Be on your guard, and if you hear from a company that wants to take you to Hollywood--for a price--remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

For a much more realistic discussion of the book-to-screen process, see Jane Friedman's excellent article, How a Book Becomes a Movie. Scroll down to the final comments to see one from a writer who was solicited by Universal Book Solutions.

8 comments :

Daisy Bateman said...

I think I found their actress:
https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1063517/

I wonder what she thinks of this testimonial?

Kanoy said...

Yes, Region VII of the Philippines is Cebu (and Bohol, Siquijor and Eastern Negros Island). So it's the typical Cebuano copycats.

Allen F said...

Suggestion to any writers:

First have a best seller before worrying about the big screen. (Best seller as in you've already made more money than these scams want you to pay.)

Second don't fall for the scam(s), if it's that good they will come to (and pay) you. If money is leaving your hand at any point, you're dealing with a scam or vanity press (or both.)

Ernie J. Zelinski said...

As JA Konrath said:

"Selling hope to the hopeless is big business."

Mark Schultz said...

Great post Victoria! There are legitimate opportunities out there, certainly not like what these scammers offer. I am going to share this widely, including posting a link on my website to this post.

Angela Ackerman said...

I am so grateful for the work you do on behalf of all writers. Thank you and the team so, so, SO much!

Angela

David G. said...

What an eye-opener. I could have very easily fallen into this scam-trap.Dr.David Garrahan

Anonymous said...

I just want other people to know that a similar company called "BRANDING NEMO" has been contacting me about a similar "Hollywood Book-to-Screen" scam. A guy named "Brian Watsons" has been pestering me for days now.

here's a link to their website: https://www.brandingnemo.com/

BEWARE!

 
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